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How will you spend your money?

When you hire an electrician as you are building or remodeling a home, you understand that every additional electrical circuit they add to system will cost you money. They will provide a recommendation, based on building code requirements, but you can always add more circuits, more "bells and whistles" and in the end, more expense.

While they are happy to shoot the breeze with you while they are working, they don't stop billing simply because you are chatting about the process of building or remodeling a home.

In the same way, every time you want to discuss changing something about your divorce, it becomes an extra charge. If you want to fight and "get even" with your spouse by litigating every issue, your attorney will oblige, assuming it is not violating the rules of professional responsibility.

But in the end, your marital property is funding all of your actions. In the same way that adding granite countertops to your kitchen may mean no six-panel oak doors, a combative divorce may cost your children a college education, or you years of retirement.

You absolutely want to obtain an equitable property division, including dividing your debts and your retirement accounts, but you have to judiciously choose your legal battles, as they can be costly.

You also need to consider the tax effects on dividing retirement assets and understand that different types of retirement accounts may have very different tax treatments. Other items, like the family home may have a strong emotional draw, but if there is still a mortgage, you must examine the full cost of owning the home, including property tax, insurance and maintenance.

You are better off having your attorney spend his or her time and your money on these calculations than to engage in some petty litigation that will add little to your net worth ten years after your divorce is final.

usnews.com, "How You're Making Your Divorce More Expensive," Geoff Williams, January 27, 2015

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